This Little Piggy Learned to Fly

DSC04147 (2)My life is filled with some interesting animals. There are dogs, horses, donkeys, a mule, a sheep, and still more dogs. And there are pigs. Big, glorious, not intended for bacon pigs. But today, there is one less pig.

My dear, fabulous, stupendous, brilliant pig among pigs, Spamela Anderson died today. We have known for some time that she was nearing the end of her days. She was quite old and honestly, I think she just got tired of being here.

I am sad. I will miss my beautiful pink girl. If you have never had a long term friendship with a pig, and I’m betting that most of you have not, you have truly missed out. But sadness will not define Spammy’s memory. Not by a long shot. I’m not writing this to mourn the loss of a special animal or to gain your sympathy. Spammy pig’s life was filled with too many great moments to allow me to do anything but smile when I think of her.

SPAMELA-06 (2) I’m writing this to celebrate the fact that this little piggy got to live a long, natural life, something that most pigs never experience. I’m also writing in remembrance of all of the good things she brought to my world. Yes, I do believe a pig was one of my most profound spirit animals.

SPAMELA-03 (2)I last wrote about Spamela in October when she was under the weather. In that post (read it here), I detailed how Spamela trotted out of the animal shelter and into my world as a tiny, pink, perfect piglet on her little high-heeled hooves. She captured my heart from our first hello.

I often refer to Spamela as my divorce pig. She entered stage right, as my husband of 15 years was exiting stage left. In my new-found independent state, I welcomed the one animal into my home that my husband had always said we could never have. “Whatever you do, don’t bring home a pig. I don’t like pigs.”

So when a pig literally fell into my lap, and despite the fact that it was during a very uncertain period in my life…I wasn’t even sure where I was going to live…I welcomed her little wrinkled nose and curly-q tail with open arms and lots of strawberries. She loved strawberries. Spammy was a funny little bright spot during an otherwise exhausting time. Is it possible that a little pig gave me strength? I have to say yes.

I will tell you that I even sold my beautiful wedding ring and used the money to buy panels to build a hog pen. Yes, I did.

I think my husband had a premonition about this. When we were parting ways and playing the this-is-mine-that-is-yours game, he asked if he could have the ring because he was afraid I would just sell it. Well, hell yes, I sold it. It was precisely the exclamation point I needed to close one chapter of my life and kick off another.

 (By the way…I don’t hate the guy. Divorce was not fun, but OH the great life that followed it. Yes, I was/am grateful for divorce…and so was a pink baby pig.)

So my little piggy and I started figuring out our new life together.

A few days after I got her, a friend named Jim came by to meet her and when I asked him what I should name her, the name Spamela Anderson popped right out of his mouth. Perfect! Who knew that a year later that guy named Jim would be an important part of my/our world. Spammy, you little matchmaker, you.

This leads us to one of my all-time favorite Spamela stories. That Jim guy had been out taking care of the animals in the barn on a cold winter evening. When he came back into the house he looked a bit dazed and had two perfect cloven hoof prints on the front of his coveralls.

What the heck?

Well, it seems that Jim had tried to convince a very hungry, very large Spamela that she should calmly wait her turn to be fed. Yes. He was telling a 600 to 700 pound hog to “wait.”

Spamela had other ideas that resulted in Jim finding himself flat on his back in the doorway of the barn. The quote heard ‘round the world that night was, “Normally, if I tell you I saw nothing but pink tits passing over my face it’s a good thing.”

I should have expressed proper concern over the fact that Jim had just been trampled by a large hog. I really should have. I failed. Oh how I failed. I’m still failing that test to this very day. Sorry Jim, but it was hysterical. Bruises fade, but the mental picture of Spamela running straight over the top of you will stay with me forever.

216578_1027815339302_8307_nFast forward a bit more to the time when a local television reporter came out to do a story about the amazing Spamela. He had read an article about her in our local pet magazine and thought she would make a fun human interest piece. You see, Spamela could do all kinds of tricks. I had trained her from the time she was a piglet and she easily learned to sit, stay, lie down, kick a soccer ball, and even do some of the agility exercises our dogs could do. That pig could run a good set of weave poles in her day.

Of course when the reporter showed up with cameraman in tow, Spamela, who was normally quite a ham (yeah, I went there) walked out of the barn, yawned and did absolutely nothing. Nadda. Not ONE trick. She wouldn’t even sit.

Needless to say the reporter had to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (oh yeah, I went there too) to pull a story out of that fiasco. Spamela looked lovely standing perfectly still on camera while the reporter and I talked about the tricks she supposedly could do. I now know how nerve-wracking it is for parents when their kid freezes on stage during his kindergarten play.

And you know, from that day forward, Spammy never did another trick. She was still her lovely, friendly self, but she made it clear that she was her own pig and her idea of fun was to nap in the straw, root around in the mud, and plant a dirty nose print on any unsuspecting human’s butt. She didn’t need no stinkin’ party tricks.

Important life lesson: You can lead a hog to weave poles, but you can’t force her to weave. You can take that literally or metaphorically. (I’m not that deep though, so take it at face value.)

But of all of the memories I have of Spammy, my very favorites are simply the times that she and I just got to hang out together on a pretty day. A girl and her hog.

Nan and SpamI will also always remember the special little noise she made just for me since she was a tiny baby. It was a soft, guttural “ah, ah, ah” sound. I always liked to think it was pig-speak for “mom”…or it could have translated to “human who brings food.” Whatever it meant, I believe it was an expression of endearment on her part.

And now, just a couple of months shy of her 13th birthday, the little piglet who became a very old hog has moved on. I don’t believe she is hanging out anywhere waiting for a reunion following my demise. No, I think Spamela will come back as something new and equally fabulous. Perhaps a fashion model. Or more likely a New York socialite. Or a famous movie star. I can absolutely see her spirit gracing the big screen.

sit stay goodWhere ever she has gone, no matter her new adventure, I know I’ll always be grateful for this little piggy.

This little piggy never went to market. This little piggy found a loving home. This little piggy lived a long, wonderful life. This little piggy earned her wings.

And now, this little piggy has learned to fly.

Thanks for everything, Spammy pig. Ah, ah, ah right back at you.

Spam and Monte Spam and Jerry HERE PIGGIE PIG (2) Bitty ride spam (2) IMG_7834 (2) Jerry and Spammy

A Terrific, Radiant, Humble Happy Birthday

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If you had told me 15 years ago that I would someday have a pet hog, I would have…well, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. In fact, I would have likely just said, “Cool! When?”

Yeah, that’s how I roll.

I have always been “that kid,” and now “that person,” earning me nicknames like Horsey Girl, Chicken Girl, Dog Lady, Squirrel Mom, Bunny Mom, etc…so naturally, Pig Mom felt so very right.

It was May of 2002 when I got the call from Dave, a good friend who worked at the City of Tulsa Animal Shelter. I volunteered at the shelter on a regular basis at that time and Dave knew I was “that person.” He called with a special request for a foster home. Three pigs had just come to the shelter…yes, the shelter set up to house dogs and cats, but NOT pigs…and one was very young and very tiny. Dave was afraid the piglet would not survive if housed in the shelter.

Would I provide a foster home for a baby pig? Well, hell yes! There really wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. My only questions were:

  1. Where is she?
  2. When can I pick her up?

I would figure the rest out as I went along. A lack of plan seemed like the perfect plan.

Now, let’s set the stage here. At that time I did live on a small acreage that boasted a barn where my horse, a llama, and my growing donkey family lived. I also owned 75ish acres that I had hoped to move to. Hoped. But at THAT time I was in the middle of a divorce and everything seemed way, way up in the air. I wasn’t sure where I would be living over the course of the next six months. I wasn’t sure if I could keep my animals. I wasn’t sure about anything.

Was it a good time to take on a baby piglet? Well…sure! She was just a foster pig, right? (Yeah, I’m laughing too.)

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So skinny at first! It didn’t last long.

The piglet had been transferred to an area veterinarian for a checkup. Beyond being a bit malnourished and having a case of pig lice (ewwww!), she was proclaimed healthy. I did quickly learn that pig lice are species-specific and that they had treated her for them, so I parked my heebie-geebies at the door of the vet hospital and rushed in to claim my new little charge.

I believe I heard her before I actually laid eyes on her. Squealing all the way into the exam room, a tiny pink bundle was delivered into my waiting arms.

Oh my. She was adorable.

Big ears, a wrinkled little snout, button eyes and a pricelessly curly tail—it was love at first snort. She was truly no bigger than a football (forgive the cruel comparison!). She walked on tiny, cloven high-heeled feet. She loved to snuggle. She was all personality. I was completely smitten by my first pig encounter, beyond the destined-to-be-bacon pigs at the state fair.

I quickly ran to the feed store to purchase some appropriate food and then also hit the produce stand to buy some fruits and veggies I knew she might like—nothing but the best for my little bundle of joy.

I bedded her down in my spare bathroom because that somehow made sense at the time. The dogs met the pig and miraculously made friends. They even played together. It was quite a sight to see my Dalmatians racing around with a little pink bullet at their heels.

Within 24 hours I knew this pig would NOT return to the shelter. If the owner of the pigs returned to pay the fines and claim them, I knew she would be destined for slaughter. If she remained unclaimed, she would be sent to auction where her fate would likely be—you guessed it—slaughter. That was just not going to happen.

So I called Dave at the shelter and told him the pig was staying put and he needed to figure it out on his end. His answer (God love this man…I know I caused him stress) was to list the piglet as deceased. Yes, he wrote on her intake card that she had been too young and malnourished to survive. (By the way, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent…) We joked for years afterward that Spammy was the healthiest dead pig anyone had ever seen.

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A girl and her pig.

Now I had a pig. Wow. Now I had a PIG. My up-in-the-air plans officially needed to accommodate a pig that would swiftly turn into a full-fledged hog. A lack of planning on my part perhaps not such a good idea? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the piglet continued to charm everyone she met. Jim (who was not my partner quite yet, but soon would be—lucky, lucky me!) named her Spamela Anderson within the first few minutes of meeting her. GENIUS. A quick, quick wit. Just another reason why I fell for this man.

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Spammy and Monte demonstrating a good “stay.”

Spamela, affectionately known as Spammy, quickly became a beloved fixture in my home…well, actually in my barn. The “let the piggy live in the house” idea changed pretty quickly. Did you know that pigs like to back up against the walls of your bathroom to poop? Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Creating poop art on the walls issues aside (and in her defense she DID “go” on the papers we put out…well, her feet were on the papers), Spammy was clever. She learned tricks and behaviors just as easily as the dogs did. She liked to play, she liked to eat. Oh she really liked to eat. My tiny pink piggy swiftly grew into a beautiful, huge hog.

Now fast-forward 12 years.

Spam and Jerry

Spamela Anderson napping with Jerry Swinefeld. Friends at last!

Spammy and I have been together through a lot of life changes. Well, life changes on my side of the board, anyway. Her life, on the other hand, has been fairly stress-free and even keel.  She has always had a comfortable barn to snooze in. She has always had lovely mud to bathe in when the weather gets warm. She has always had plenty of good food to eat. She has always had room to roam and graze. She even eventually got a younger adopted brother that she wasn’t too sure about in the beginning, but grew to enjoy his company (except at dinner time—he’s such a pig!).

Spam and Monte

Spamela and Monte were best of friends. They played together until I decided she was just too big and might hurt him accidentally. It was sure fun to see them romp. Interesting side note, Monte would never accept one of those pig ear chews. Turned his nose completely up. What a loyal friend!

All these years later, we get to celebrate Spamela Anderson’s 12th birthday. So few pigs live to see this milestone, so it’s special. All the more special because, after a bit of research, I found that the average lifespan for Yorkshire pigs, who are actually allowed to live, is listed as six to 10 years. You go, Spammy!

This little piggy has lived a very good, long life. Together, we survived divorce, we survived figuring out where and how to live, and we survived changes in family, career, and lifestyle. Through it all, Spamela has been blissfully unaware, but she did play an important role in swaying many a decision and I am grateful for her not-so-silent influence (have you ever heard the noise a 600-plus pound hog can make at mealtime? Think roaring lion.).

Now Spammy’s years are showing. Her once impressive bulk has faded. She is a little slower to rise and enjoys naps a good deal of the time. She still meets each meal with the enthusiasm of a young porker and she still loves a good wallow in the mud. I know we don’t have a lot of time left together, but whatever time she graces us with, will be wonderful.

To borrow words from another famous pig story in which a clever spider named Charlotte documented the attributes of her porcine friend within her web, I would have to say that Spamela is, indeed,

“Some Pig,”

“Terrific,”

“Radiant,”

and

“Humble.”

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Portrait of a senior pig.

After all, she was a bit famous in these parts with articles documenting her life in magazines, newspapers, and even on the news. Through it all, she remained unaffected, and slightly mud-caked.

I would have to one-up dear Charlotte’s list, however. My last web-message for Spamela would have to be “Much-Loved.” And she is.

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to our dear Spamela Anderson. You are one very fine pig.

 

Following are more photos from the life and times of Spamela Anderson. Here’s to hoping we get to add many more.

 

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Yes, she would let me ride her. Sort of.

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We were our own little side show.

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She could heel better than most dogs.

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Hanging out with her horsey friends.

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Carrots. Always a favorite. She loves all fruits and veggies, but does not like cake…especially stuff like Twinkies. This could be a key to her long life.

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Spammy, at her full size, enjoying a visit from friends. She was quite impressively large in her prime.